The CSC Blog
Great writing from our team on rehab, fighting, and tips and tricks to help you stay at the top of your game
Neck strength for combat sports
Neck strength is important for anyone who takes part in contact or combat sports, and it’s something I’m often asked about. It can be a tricky area of the body to work on – and some of the traditional approaches can (for some people) cause more problems than they solve.
Here, I’ve recorded a quick video of my favourite neck exercise. Of course, this assumes that you have no real neck problems to start with – if you do, or if you get any pain when doing the exercise, then I recommend that you get that checked out by a professional first.
Wrestlers traditionally take a slightly different approach to neck conditioning, often bridging right up onto the top of their head, with their neck extended backwards. I think as an exercise, this has its place – especially if you’re a competitive olympic wrestler who needs to be able to perform that movement as part of your sport. The trouble with it is that it puts a lot of pressure on the joints of the neck. For many people – especially those of us who are no longer in our teens or early twenties – it can trigger episodes of neck pain, and potentially contribute to wear and tear in those joints.
People also ask me about using a head harness for developing neck strength. (This is a strap that fits over your head and allows you to lift weights with your neck.) While I don’t doubt that some people get good results this way, I’m not keen to recommend this approach for two reasons. Firstly, I think that if you’re not careful it can promote bad movement patterns, and it is easy to take it too far and cause yourself an injury – especially if you have an existing neck problem. Secondly, in the majority of situations, we want to use the neck muscles to stabilise the neck in a close to neutral position (perhaps during a tackle, takedown or to defend a clinch), rather than to lift a weight. There are ways of using head harnesses effectively – but it’s not my first port of call.
Finally – I do have some other tools in the box when it comes to neck strengthening; this isn’t the only exercise that I use. For many, though, it’s a great place to start.